Thursday, March 10, 2011

Plugged In, Linked In, Tweeting...And A Little Lost...

"Plugging In" to social media is vital to our photo business, but how do we do it effectively?

Plugged In, Linked In, Tweeting…and A Little Lost
I have plugged in. I twitter, I’m Linked In, I’m working hard on SEO…and I am a little lost.  It is Facebook that really has me flummoxed! Facebook is so big, so pervasive and so, what, imminent…that I feel it must be vital to my goal of utilizing the Internet to advance my photography career and insure an adequate and continuing income stream. But how the heck do I take advantage of it?

Facebook, Building Community, and Clients
The bits and pieces are starting to come together. I can see how Facebook can work for a wedding photographer. One thing that really makes sense to me is the idea of putting wedding images online and tagging the people in the images. Suddenly your work is in front of everyone who attended the wedding (and who is active in Facebook). Cool! But, I don’t shoot weddings. I can see how Facebook can work in reinforcing and keeping your “brand” fresh by building a community that includes clients, but assignments aren’t my thing anymore.  For stock photographers, however, the usefulness is still eluding me.

A Fan Page For Funny Animal Pictures
Since I not only shoot stock, but also create my Animal Antics humorous animal pictures, images that are available as retail items in the form of greeting cards, coffee mugs, calendars and such, perhaps a fan page and growing a Facebook community might be in order. OK, I have started a fan page for the funny animal photos.  Not to complain, ah well, actually I am complaining…another thing I have to keep track of and contribute to! I have only had the fan page up a couple of weeks and I am already getting confused as to what images I have put on my blog versus on my Facebook page or fan page or whatever.

Information and Action
I have started going over Photoshelter’s Social Media guide…which seems really good. But it is going to take me a while to really absorb the information and translate it into action. In the meantime, I will keep dipping my toe in the Facebook waters, checking in on friends (though I feel like I am always getting to the “party” a tad late), uploading images when the stars align properly, and working at integrating my “social media” efforts.

Cold Calls, Taxes, Egos and Social Media
I would love to be able to just ignore Facebook. Heck, I would love to just worry about making images. But part of making a living at photography is dealing with all kinds of things that we don’t really want to deal with.  When I first started thirty years ago it was dealing with cold calls. Over the years it has meant investing in portfolios, source book ads, attending art director events, setting up a studio(s), executing the visions of others, dealing with cash flow issues, deadbeats, paying bills, dealing with taxes, dealing with egos (mine as well as others) and so forth. Now I believe it also means dealing with the Internet, Social Media, and SEO.

Irons In The Fire And The Most Important Thing
At any rate, I won’t pull the plug on my Internet activities. I’ll keep learning what I can, keeping all my irons in the fire, and trying not to lose sight of the fact that the most important thing I can do is to continue to stretch myself in creating the very best images I can.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Smashing Alarm Clocks In Super Slow Motion

A super slow motion concept stock video of smashing an alarm clock with a sledgehammer!

Smashing A Ringing Alarm Clock With A Hammer
Hey, who hasn’t wanted to smash a ringing alarm clock with a hammer, or better yet a sledgehammer? Well, that is exactly what I got to do, and to have it filmed at 1000 frames a second to boot (do I love this career or what)? When I got the opportunity to shoot with a Phantom HD camera to help beta test the GVS9000 VTR hardware and software to efficiently utilize this high-speed marvel I didn’t hesitate. I threw together a list of ideas, grabbed some props, pulled together a skeleton crew and undertook some super slow motion stock video clips.

One Alarm Clock, One Try
One of our first ideas to execute was the alarm clock destruction. Now as it happened I only had one alarm clock. That means we had to nail it on the first try. I accepted the challenge and responsibility of swinging the sledge (OK…the fun too). My hammer was one of the smaller, short-handled ones. We set up our lighting, a 5000K tungsten light (lower wattage lights tend to “strobe” at slow motion frame rates) filtered with a 4x8 diffusion panel, on one side, and a 4x8 sheet of foam core adding fill on the other side.

A Ringing Clapper and Killing Time
With the lighting set-up and the camera ready I took a few practice swings. When I was relatively sure I could hit the clock squarely with a good hard swing I asked my partner, Stephanie, to give me a count down. Three, Two, One…slam! I nailed it! I can’t tell you how gratifying it was to do a good job of hitting that clock! The video looked great too.  In Final Cut Pro we sped up the first part of the clip so that the clapper looked like it was ringing in real time. As soon as the hammer reached the top of the alarm clock we slowed the frame rate to 30 frames a second implementing our super slow motion.  Voila! A concept stock video about deadlines, boundaries, time issues, sleep issues…and I suppose…killing time! OK, maybe not that one.

Eight More Clocks And A Faster Frame Rate
Even though we were happy with our image we wanted to see if we could do better. Since we had the camera for several days we went out and purchased eight more clocks. You can see some of our additional efforts at stopping time (hey…another concept) by smashing alarm clocks. These additional efforts really brought out how lucky we were with that first effort. In the subsequent efforts I missed the center of some of the clocks, in one the Duracell batteries became clearly visible, in another the clock had very little action and so forth. I think the first effort was still the best, though in the next eight attempts we did move the frame rate up to 1900 frames per second.

Three Different Breaking Clock Videos And Revenue Generation
We ended up submitting three different versions. I think each of these smashing clock videos can work as a stand-alone video with a voice over, or type, and can also work as parts of other video productions as well. It will be interesting to see which one generates the most revenue. Time well tell (no pun intended).

Monday, March 7, 2011

Interview: Angela Low, Marketing Program Manager Shops,

A woman artist paints a dollar sign symbolizing the art of earning money.
Artists look to to help them earn from their art. In the following interview Angela Low, Marketing Program Manager for, helps artists learn the business of"

Angela Low
Marketing Program Manager, Shops

Can you give us some background information on yourself…how you came to be Marketing Program Manager at

I started CafePress in 2001 so I have been here for over 9 years! During my tenure I have held many positions – from account manager to community manager to my current position as a program manager – the one common thread has been interaction with Shopkeepers.  When the need came for someone to manage programs for shops, a role that was perfect for my background, I eagerly stepped into that role! 

What is it in your job that brings you the most satisfaction?
When the programs I’m involved with are positively acknowledged and beneficial to the CafePress community.

What are some of the biggest misconceptions that shop owners have?
I think the biggest misconception Shopkeepers have, especially new ones, is to assume making money on CafePress is easy. Some Shopkeepers assume that designing products and opening a shop is enough to make sales. Similar to other businesses it requires a lot hard work and it’s certainly not easy. 

What is the one thing that most shop owners can do to increase their sales?
Know your target audience so you can promote efficiently.  For example, knowing your audience allows you to use the right key words and descriptions for your shop and products when optimizing for search engines.  It’s good to describe your products but knowing your buyers will give you an advantage. 

What is the most common mistake you see shop owners making?
Sometimes Shopkeepers neglect to optimize their shops for search engines, it’s an easy thing to do and is very important.   

How big an impact does the design or layout of a shop have?
Very important, great navigation is the key to conversion. If you have traffic to your shop but you’re not seeing conversion – it’s possible your shop is poorly laid out and buyers are not finding what they want. Generally, we recommend offering customers a simple way to browse products by design or by product type.  Some savvy Shopkeepers also offer additional browse options such as by “price” or “topic.”

Is there any co-relation between how many designs a shop has and how successful it is?
For the most part, there is.  The more designs you have, the more likely customers will find what they are looking for.  However, if you have a lot of designs be sure your shop is well merchandised.

How would you define the success of a shop?
It depends on how you define success. We have Shopkeepers who feel successful that are making $20 a month – and Shopkeepers making thousands.  My definition of a successful shop is one that consistently sells each month, from there it becomes easier to grow.

What is a realistic revenue goal for individuals running shops?
If a Shopkeeper is willing to put hard work into marketing their shop and have great designs, a realistic goal is several hundred dollars a month.  For some Shopkeepers, several thousand is realistic.

Is it important to add social media into the mix…and if so, how can we do that?
Social media is good and cost effective way to market your shop, a good start is sharing your shop and products with friends on Facebook and Twitter. Or, blog about your products – this helps your shop on search engines.  Perhaps create a Facebook page for your shop and ask your friends to be fans.

What products tend to have the most sales?
T-shirts, sweatshirts and mugs

What determines a products placement in the marketplace? Is there anything a shop owner can do to have their images come up sooner?
The best thing to do is accurately Tag your images.  Using random, and at times irrelevant, keywords to describe your image as a way to get more traffic may actually hurt your Marketplace ranking for that image.

Do you have any suggestions on where and how to learn what we need to know to succeed in our businesses?
Every situation is different but I recommend talking to other Shopkeepers to see what they have tried, what’s worked for them, and what didn’t.  The CafePress forums are a great place to meet fellow Shopkeepers.

Can you share a success story or two?
Because of our privacy policies we can’t share specific success stories unless given permission.  However, I can share general groups of Shopkeepers that have seen success in their own way.  For instance there are many Shopkeepers that quit their day job to work on their CafePress shop full time.  Many Shopkeepers use CafePress to successfully raise funds for their non-profit organization or cause. And quite a few use their CafePress shop as means to earn side cash – we had a Shopkeeper that used some of that money to buy her first house!

Do you have any final thoughts you want to leave us with?
If you have talent for great designs and you’re willing to put in the time building and marketing your shop – you’ll do well. I suggest learning about online marketing, talking to other Shopkeepers, trying new and different ideas, and be patient! Don’t give up! 

For those of you interested you can view my coffee mugs, T-shirts, sweatshirts and other imprinted gifts at my Shop.  Presently I am earning a couple of dollars a day.